It was these Celtic designs - notably the Celtic spiral designs, the intricate Celtic interlace patterns and of course the Celtic crosses - that would inspire the next three major achievements in Irish visual art.Unlike Britain and the Continent, Ireland's geographic remoteness prevented colonization by Rome.
Thus, despite regular trade with Roman Britain, the country became a haven for the uninterrupted development of Celtic art and crafts, which were neither displaced by Greco-Roman art, nor destroyed in the ensuing "Dark Ages" (c.400-800) when Roman power in Europe was replaced by barbarian anarchy.
It was this Celtic culture with its tradition of metallurgical craftsmanship and carving skills, (see Celtic Weapons art) that was responsible for the second great achievement of Irish art: a series of exceptional items of precious metalwork made for secular and Christian customers, (see also Celtic Christian art) as well as a series of intricately engraved monumental stoneworks.
In addition to their role as centres of religious devotion and Christian art, they invested significantly in ecclesiastical icons, such as the above-mentioned chalices (Derrynaflan, Ardagh), shrines and processional crosses, the production of which required the maintenance of a busy forge and blacksmithery, and the retention of numerous craftsmen.
Finally, as well as a busy scriptorium (for illuminated manuscripts) and forge (for precious metalwork), from around 750 onwards monasteries also paid for an important program of biblical sculpture which was to become the next great achievement of Irish art.
With much of Europe experiencing a cultural stagnation due to the chaos and uncertainty which prevailed after the fall of Rome and the onset of the Dark Ages, the Church authorities selected Ireland as a potential base for the spread of Christianity and around 450 CE despatched St Patrick in the role of missionary.
His success, and that of his followers (St Patrick, St.
This High Cross sculpture represents Ireland's major sculptural contribution to the history of art.
The ringed High Crosses fall into two basic groups, depending on the type of engravings and relief-work displayed.
See, for instance, Christ's Monogram Page in the Book of Kells.